Necessary Falling Apart

 

Richard Rohr:

Sanctity has to take place in the world and change the world because what is a structure of sin must fall apart. The goal is not a theonomy or a Christendom; it is Christ, God-man. The changed world will not be clerical but secular with the secularity of Christ who is fully and perfectly man. 

 This is a necessary corollary  from Colossians 1, 15-20:  “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature. For in him were created all things in the heavens and on the earth, … All things have been created through and unto him, and he is before all creatures, and in him all things hold together…For it has pleased God the Father that in him all his fullness should dwell, and that through him he should reconcile to himself all things whether on the earth or in the heavens, making peace through the blood of his cross.”

    Robert Barron expatiated: “Individuals, societies, cultures, animals, plants, planets and the stars – all will be drawn into an eschatological harmony through him. Mind you, Jesus is not merely the symbol of an intelligibility, coherence, and reconciliation that can exist apart from him; rather, he is the active and indispensable means by which these realities come to be. This Jesus, in short, is the all-embracing, all-incuding, all-reconciling Lord of whatever is to be found in the dimensions of time and space.”

How could it be otherwise if the God-man Jesus Christs is the prototype of everyman. For “Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him Who was to come,(20) namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. It is not surprising, then, that in Him all the aforementioned truths find their root and attain their crown” (Gaudium et spes #22).

He Who is “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15-21) is Himself the perfect man. To the sons of Adam He restores the divine likeness which had been disfigured from the first sin onward. Since human nature as He assumed it was not annulled,(22) by that very fact it has been raised up to a divine dignity in our respect too. For by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man. He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind, acted by human choice(23) and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, He has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin.(24).

Further, this means that every truly human society derives from the dynamic that is the very Person of the Jesus Christ such that each person “cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself” (Gaudium et Spes #24).

In the light of that, it fits to say with St. Josemaria Escriva: 

 

The Way

301

A secret, an open secret: these world crises are crises of saints.

God wants a handful of men ‘of his own’ in every human activity. And then… ‘pax Christi in regno Christi — the peace of Christ in the kingdom of Christ’.

 

Friday, July 8, 2016

Richard Rohr:

“…It has taken Christians a long time to be able to see the Gospel in a fully historic, social, and political context; although this is clearly God’s concern, starting with the Book of Exodus. Truly transformed people change the world; while fundamentally unchanged people soon conform to the world (see Romans 12:2). Culture will win out every time, if it is not also critiqued. Politicians normally prefer an unaware and superficial populace.

Dorothy Day put it even more strongly: “Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system.” [2] As long as we unquestioningly buy into the egoic system, where the roots of our narcissism often lie hidden, we’re going to have problems. If we think we can say our private prayers and still genuflect before the self-perpetuating, unjust systems of this world, our conversion will not go very deep or last very long. There is no one more radical than a real person of prayer because they are not beholden to any ideology or economic system; their identity and motivation is found only in God, not in the pay-offs of “mammon.” Both church and state are threatened by true mystics. Such enlightened people can’t be bought off or manipulated, because their rewards are always elsewhere.

Most of us need to have the status quo shaken now and then, leaving us off balance and askew, feeling alienated for a while from our usual unquestioned loyalties. In this uncomfortable space, we can finally recognize the much larger kingdom of God. Many churches don’t seem to understand this, even flying the national flag in the sanctuary. After authentic conversion, our old “country” no longer holds any ultimate position. We can’t worship it as we were once trained to do.

This pattern of temporary falling apart precedes every transition to a new level of faith, hope, and love. If one is not prepared to live in temporary chaos and to hold the necessary anxiety that chaos entails, one never moves into a Bigger World. Notice that almost every theophany (revelation of God) begins with the same warning: “Do not be afraid.” Fear is an entirely predictable response to any God encounter, because any authentic experience of the Absolute relativizes everything else. God is actually quite wild and dangerous, but we domesticated divine experience so much that a vast majority of people have left the search entirely, finding most religious people to be fearful conformists instead of adventurous seekers of Love and Mystery.

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Why “Amoris Laetitia” is “Vague”

Joseph Ratzinger calls this “theological epistemology.” It is the central point of his “Behold the Pierced One” where I first got a handle on the basic meaning of “to know.” Richard Rohr says it well insofar as it can be said. It is also Vatican II, Paul VI, John Paul II, all of Benedict XVI and now Francis.

 Yours Life Is Not about You

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

 

Richard Rohr: One reason we Christians have misunderstood many of Jesus’ teachings is that we have not seen Jesus’ way of education as that of a spiritual master. He wants to situate us in a larger life, which he calls the “Reign of God.” But instead we make him into a Scholastic philosopher if we are Roman Catholic, into a moralist if we are mainline Protestant, or into a successful and imperialistic American if we are Evangelical. Yet the initiatory thrust of Jesus’ words is hidden in plain sight.

Study, for example, his instructions to the twelve disciples, when he sent them into society in a very vulnerable way (no shoes or wallet, like sheep among wolves). How did we miss this? Note that it was not an intellectual message as much as it was an “urban plunge,” a high-risk experience where something new and good could happen. It was designed to change the disciples much more than it was meant for them to change others! (See Matthew 10:1-33 or Luke 10:1-24.) Today we call it a reverse mission, where we ourselves are changed and helped by those whom we think we are serving.

When read in light of classic initiation patterns, Jesus’ intentions are very clear. He wanted his disciples–then and now–to experience the value of vulnerability. Jesus invites us to a life without baggage so we can learn how to accept others and their culture. Instead, we carry along our own country’s assumptions masquerading as “the good news.” He did not teach us to hang up a shingle to get people to attend our services. He taught us exactly the opposite: We should stay intheir homes and eat their food! This is a very strong anti-institutional model. One can only imagine how different history would have been had we provided this initiatory training for our missionaries. We might have borne a message of cosmic sympathy instead of imperialism, providing humble reconciliation instead of religious wars and the murdering of “heretics,” Jews, “pagans,” and native peoples in the name of Jesus.

 

When we could not make clear dogma, moral code, or a practical war economy out of Jesus’ teaching, we simply abandoned it in any meaningful sense. His training of novices has had little or no effect on church style or membership, by and large. When one throws out initiatory training, the whole latter program and plan of life is left without foundation or containment. Now we seek a prize of later salvation–instead of the freedom of present simplicity. I am told that the Sermon on the Mount–the essence of Jesus’ teaching–is the least quoted in official Catholic Church documents.

However, there were always people like Francis of Assisi, Simone Weil, Menno Simons, Peter Waldo, George Fox, Catherine of Genoa, Peter Maurin, Mother Teresa, and Dorothy Day who made Jesus’ Gospel their life map. They knew that lifestyle was more important than theories, intellectual belief systems, or abstruse theology. Once you know that your life is not about you, then you can also trust that your life is your message. This gives you an amazing confidence about your own small life–precisely because it is no longer a small life, it is no longer just yours, and it is not all in your head. Henceforth, you do not try to think yourself into a new way of living, but you first live in a new way, from a new vantage point–and your thinking changes by itself.

“I live no longer, not I,” Paul shouted with his one daring life (Galatians 2:20). And this one-man show turned a Jewish sect into a worldwide religion. Paul allowed his small life to be used by the Great Life, and that is finally all that matters. Your life is not about you. It is about God and about allowing Life and Death to “be done unto me,” which is Mary’s prayer at the beginning of her journey and Jesus’ prayer at the end of his.

 

Pentecost: Face to Face Knowing

Face to Face Knowing
Sunday, May 15, 2016
Moses is the first person in the Bible who is spoken of as knowing God “face to face,” “who would speak with Yahweh as a man speaks with his friend” (Exodus 33:11). And yet the Exodus text also demonstrates how coming to the point of fullinterface is a gradual process of veiling and unveiling, just as in all of us. God takes the initiative in this respectful relationship with Moses, inviting the fleeing murderer (Exodus 2:12-15) into an amazing intimacy and ongoing conversation, which allows mutual self-disclosure, the pattern for all love affairs.
 
Moses describes this experience as “a blazing bush that does not burn up.” He is caught between running forward to meet the blaze and coming no nearer and taking off his shoes (Exodus 3:2)–the classic response to mysterium tremendum. It is common for mystics, from Moses to Bonaventure, Philip Neri, and Pascal, to describe the experience of God as fire or a furnace or pure light. But during this early experience, “Moses covered his face, afraid to look back at God” (Exodus 3:6). He has to be slowly taught how to look back. At first Moses continues to live like most of us, in his shame. God gradually convinces Moses of God’s respect, which Moses calls “favor,” but not without some serious objections from Moses’ side. It is a long fight, but, as we know, God always wins.
Moses takes spirituality and social engagement together from the very beginning. As Moses hides his face from the burning bush, God commissions him to confront the pharaoh of Egypt and tell him to stop oppressing the enslaved Hebrews. This is the foundational text for teaching the essential relationship between spirituality and social engagement, prayer and politics, contemplation and action. It stands at the beginning of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but the connection is often forgotten or denied. It is the job of the prophets and Jesus to remake the connection.
In response to God’s call, Moses quickly comes up with five objections: 1) “Who am I?” 2) “Who are you?” 3) “What if they do not believe me?” 4) “I stutter.” 5) “Why not send someone else?” If it were not the classic biblical text, I would assume this exchange to be a cartoon in the New Yorker! In each case, God stays in the dialogue, answering Moses respectfully and even intimately, offering a promise of personal Presence and an ever-sustaining glimpse into who God is–Being Itself, Existence Itself, a nameless God beyond all names, a formless God previous to all forms, a liberator God who is utterly liberated. God asserts God’s ultimate freedom from human attempts to capture God in concepts and words by saying, “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:14). Over the course of his story we see that Moses slowly absorbs this same daring freedom.
But to learn foundational freedom in his True Self, God has to assign Moses a specific task: create freedom for people who don’t want it very badly, freedom from an oppressor who thinks he is totally in control. It is in working for outer freedom, peace, and justice in the world that we have to discover an even deeper inner freedom just to survive in the presence of so much death. Most people become cynical and angry and retreat into various ideological theories over time. Or they walk away and return to an indulgent liberal worldview–this happened with much of my own generation in the 1960s.

Again, we see the inherent connection between action and contemplation, the dialogue between the outer journey and the inner journey. Contemplation is the connection to the Source of Love that allows grounded activists to stay engaged for the long haul without burning out. Moses shows us that this marriage of action and contemplation is essential and possible.

Continue reading “Pentecost: Face to Face Knowing”